I'm not sure if where you're from students beg for extra points after taking their tests. I see this very often around here right after the test where the teacher is collecting the papers and students keep asking her to add a couple of points to their final score. What do call these extra points and what is it that the teacher does if she complies with the request?

Here's the context,

Students: Please consider some [mercy points]!

Teacher: I see you didn't do well on the test. I will [grade your papers with mercy] to some extent. But I should say I'm a bit disappointed.

  • 8
    Note that this seems to vary a lot by culture. This just isn't done in the USA, so there isn't a precise word for it. There are only the concepts of extra credit, grading on a curve, and retakes, as Em's answer explains. Jun 22, 2018 at 14:22
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    To be clear, do you really mean there is absolutely no reason given for the request?
    – user541686
    Jun 23, 2018 at 1:01
  • @Mehrdad The teacher doesn't have to do that, so from the teacher's perspective there aren't any except for the students' requests, and well students always have their own reasons, don't they? :-)
    – Yuri
    Jun 23, 2018 at 7:21
  • To be honest, it's really hard to pick the best answer here. The ones given are all sort of right, but I'm going with the one which is pretty close, culture-wise.
    – Yuri
    Jun 23, 2018 at 18:42
  • "Cheater" might be apt here.
    – user64742
    Jun 24, 2018 at 1:52

7 Answers 7


Well, those marks or points are given to students if they are failing the exam without them. For instance, if the passing marks are 35, and a student is getting 30, then 5 marks are added. They are, at least in India, known as...

grace marks

However, the scenario you mentioned does not describe such a situation. If the student is asking for some extra marks, what is the purpose? To pass the examination? If yes, he may ask the teacher for the grace marks. Since it's a kind of mercy, it's generally granted, and not given!

Students: Please grant us some grace marks!
Teacher: I see that you didn't do well in the test, I will grant some marks.. But I should say that I'm a bit disappointed.

If the intention is something else, you can still apply the same term. But, I'm not sure whether a student would ever ask for grace marks to score from 95 to 100! Such scholar students never demand!

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    Interesting. Here in California I don't think there's a term for giving someone points so that they don't fail. If it's just begging for a few extra points, it could be called "extra credit"
    – Ringo
    Jun 22, 2018 at 6:05
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    Something funny. I just googled grace marks turned out it's an actual person :-) Anyway, students sometimes get very competitive and they're under a lot of pressure from their parents I guess, so even the good ones might do that. Thank you and +1. I'll wait to see what else might come up.
    – Yuri
    Jun 22, 2018 at 6:13
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    Interesting; in the US, at least in my experience, it is certainly not considered a courtesy to give a student extra points in this way. Or in other words, a student has no right to expect extra points to be added to keep them from failing. (Some teachers will grant them anyway, in some circumstances.) So I think it would be useful to edit the first paragraph to indicate that giving those points is a regional/cultural phenomenon, but that other places outside of India may do things differently.
    – David Z
    Jun 22, 2018 at 7:47
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    @Ringo - extra credit usually means "extra work for extra points," which is not quite the same thing.
    – J.R.
    Jun 22, 2018 at 8:25
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    It's worth noting that in Italy, students who fail to achieve the minimum mark/grade, which is 6, in four or more subjects have to retake/resit end of year exams in September, so that means studying during the summer and maybe even attending summer courses. If they fail any of those exams in September then they have to repeat the entire scholastic year. This does not happen in the UK nor in the US, however bad your grades you still move onto the next year. Hence the students "begging" for an extra mark, it can make a huge difference to a student!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 22, 2018 at 8:51

There is a cultural issue here. Student may well beg for marks, but not usually for no work at all. Students will complain "till the cows come home" about fairness and will compare papers to see if another student has been given credit for something that they have missed. But I have never heard of a student asking for extra marks for no reason at all.

A teacher may decide to mark generously or strictly, but if a student were given five extra marks for nothing, every other student would complain about fairness and the teacher would be in trouble with his boss.

So these extra marks don't have a common name. In the situation you describe I would imagine the student would say "Please give me an extra mark."

Note "Extra credit" is something quite different. It is extra work that can be submitted in addition to the minimum requirements of the course. "For homework, answer the questions about Pythagoras theorem. For extra credit, write a paragraph about the beliefs of the Pythagoreans."

  • 1
    Good point. You're right on cultural differences and going something straight like, 'Please give us some extra points' is most likely not well received where you're from. You can imagine though in your culture that students put it in an indirect way like, 'Excuse me, Mr. Pilkington! We know it's sort of embarrassing but we were wondering if you could consider marking a bit more generously?' Am I right? In addition I need to say that if the teacher goes with the idea of adding up extra points saying, 'Alright', that's for everyone and not just for a particular student.
    – Yuri
    Jun 22, 2018 at 7:41
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    @Yuri In most western institutions, grades would only be increased if there was an issue with the marking scheme - for example a question that was deemed unanswerable (given the course content) - in which case all grades would be altered to reflect the (now lower) new threshhold. It's uncommon for students to get their grade raised individually (although that doesn't stop them trying), and many institutions would consider it very unethical for students to be given a better grade if the class' marking was otherwise considered fair.
    – user68033
    Jun 22, 2018 at 12:25
  • To add to the answer: students in fact sometimes beg for instructors to fail them (i.e.: give fewer points) so they can retake the class. But @Bilkokuya: I think you're a little too utopian about how things works in western institutions...
    – user541686
    Jun 23, 2018 at 1:00
  • At my university (in Poland), professors would sometimes lower the grade thresholds if the class did particularly poorly, even without issues with questions. "Grace points" were rare - sometimes you could argue for an imprecise answer to be graded a little better if passing depended on it, but you'd rarely get points for nothing. Jun 23, 2018 at 13:39

People in academia often refer to this phenomenon as grade grubbing, and to those who engage in this practice as grade grubbers. You can read about their views on this practice at a Stack Exchange question on a sister site, and, in fact, it gets mentioned in several other answers there as well.

NOAD defines the verb grub as:

grub (verb) search for something in a clumsy and unmethodical manner; rummage : I began grubbing about in the wastepaper basket to find the envelope.

Those outside academia may not be familiar with this expression, but you could use synonyms to describe the practice. For example, if you said:

In my school, too many students scrounge for extra points after their exams.

then most people would probably know what you are talking about.

I don't know of a term for the professors who succumb to grade grubbers and their pleas for extra points, although if the professors give in too readily, the word pushovers would be apt. NOAD labels the word informal, and Wiktionary defines it as:

pushover (noun) Someone who is easily swayed or influenced to change his/her mind or comply

  • Thank you and +1. However I see you gave it sort of a negative and inappropriate shade from an observer's perspective. I can't really fit your suggestions in the context though it was good to know.
    – Yuri
    Jun 22, 2018 at 9:13
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    @Yuri In the US, it's generally viewed with a negative connotation. People expect that any credit given will be for work done, and that no student will get extra points just for talking to the teacher. (Although the teacher might give back some points for subjective credit, such as paper style or show-your-work credit, if you talk to him.)
    – Cullub
    Jun 22, 2018 at 19:10
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    @Cullub - When individual students do this one-on-one with an instructor, it's generally viewed negatively, as you say. However, if a class does this en masse after a surprisingly low result on an exam, maybe not so much. My answer pretty much addresses the one-on-one situation, while Em and Steve address the "group" scenario in their answers.
    – J.R.
    Jun 22, 2018 at 22:34

In my experience, students don't ask for additional points in the US. If they do, I imagine they simply ask for a few "extra points". The teacher would "grant", or simply "give", these points.

Typically, students do ask for "extra credit" though, if they want to improve their grade:

Extra credit is an academic concept, particularly used in American schools. Students are offered the opportunity to undertake optional work, additional to their compulsory school work, in order to gain additional credit that would boost their grades.

Anyone can ask for extra credit. An exceptional student can ask for it to increase their grade from an A to an A+, or a failing student can request it to pass the class. I've also heard of "makeup points".

A slightly different concept you might hear is asking for a curve, if the grades aren't already curved:

In education, marking on a curve (BE) or grading on a curve (AE, CE) (also referred to as curved grading, bell curving, or using grading curves) is a method of assigning grades to the students in a class in such a way as to obtain a pre-specified distribution of these grades, such as a normal distribution (also called Gaussian distribution). The term "curve" refers to the bell curve, the graphical representation of the probability density of the normal distribution, but this method can be used to achieve any desired distribution of the grades – for example, a uniform distribution.

If the teacher wishes to do so, as mentioned above, they're grading on a curve. If the grades are already curved, then the students might ask for an easy curve. As @aschepler comments, this expression is often used to make changes to the grades that have nothing to do with a curve. For example, it could be used to give everyone a boost on a particularly difficult exam, regardless of the shape of the resulting distribution.

  • 1
    Very helpful. Thanks. So can the students say, 'Could you please grade on a curve?/ Can you take our grades on a curve/ Can you grade on an easy curve?' By this I'd like to know different ways that students might actually use to make the meaning by the word curve.
    – Yuri
    Jun 22, 2018 at 10:56
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    The usage of "take" is unidiomatic to me, but the other two seem fine. The students might also request, "Please curve it. / Please curve the test."
    – Em.
    Jun 22, 2018 at 11:02
  • I wish it was rare in my classes (US as well). I strictly refuse to curve grades unless there was an error on the test; students beg me for it all the time.
    – JKreft
    Jun 22, 2018 at 11:06
  • I'd note that "grade on a curve" is frequently used (in my US experience) even for changes to grades that have nothing to do with the mathematical bell curve. A true curve might reduce some scores. More often when my teachers used the term, they would just apply the same bonus to every student.
    – aschepler
    Jun 22, 2018 at 11:20
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    @Yuri for me, there are some professors / some classes where grades (mostly exam grades) are curved. For example, math exams are rarely curved, but science exams are often curved, and I think engineering exams too. Some professors curve every exam and students will know this, and some professors only curve exams with very low averages. Curving is usually used on tests that are very difficult to ace, and either bumps everyone's grades up a bit or gives students grades based on how well they did compared to their classmates rather then compared to a perfect score.
    – Stephen S
    Jun 22, 2018 at 18:58

In the USA, I would probably use the term "pity points". But this doesn't quite fit in the sample conversation you quoted, because students generally would not use that phrase themselves when asking for extra points. It's a slightly derogatory term; it somewhat implies that the student being given the points is such a terrible student that they couldn't possibly succeed without the teacher taking pity on them.

Here, instead of asking for points the way you outlined, it would be more normal for a student to ask for "extra credit", meaning an additional assignment that the student can do to earn some extra points. It is pretty well established in our educational culture that points are earned, not given, so a student asking for extra points without any need to do some extra work for them would be considered quite inappropriate. (But it happens anyway!)


Students might ask teachers to improve their most recent grade, to be more open-handed, generous or (informally) to be less stingy with their grades/marks.


It's called a curve, and it's there because the test was unfair. For example, if the class average is 50/100 and no one scored above 70 then there will probably be a curve. So, with intent added, the students are really saying "That test was clearly too hard, how are you going to fix this?" and the teacher is saying "I think it was fair, if the stats show it wasn't I'll make it right".

This standard has the advantage of making it clear what the teacher wants the students to be able to do without punishing the students for not having the time or ability to learn so much. In college especially, there's really only so much you can expect a person to be able to learn in a month. It would be unfair in a lot of cases to expect them to be where the professor wants them to be in that amount of time. It can also help students who didn't do well without giving them an unfair advantage over students who did do well; it doesn't punish students who did well.

This standard has the massive disadvantage of being extremely demotivating. As a student, you can only study 27+ hours for a test and fail it horrendously so many times before you lose the will to try. Seriously, studying for a test diligently for that long in the week before the test and still only pulling 55/100 hurts your mentality a lot.

  • 2
    Grading on a curve is not the same thing as awarding extra credit to a few students, however. Either the entire class is getting graded based on a re-centered distribution (the curve in question), or a few apple-polishers are making out.
    – choster
    Jun 22, 2018 at 18:45
  • @choster that's the point. It's a curve not extra credit.
    – Scott
    Jun 22, 2018 at 20:04
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    Grading on a curve does not indicate that a test is "unfair," just that it was hard.
    – stannius
    Jun 22, 2018 at 22:35
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    @stannius by unfair I just mean that it was too hard; the test demanded a higher level of mastery than a student with average responsibilities could be reasonably expected to achieve in the time they had to prepare for it.
    – Scott
    Jun 25, 2018 at 13:39

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